We all feel as though we're not enough compared to other businesses at times. Here's why it's not always a bad thing.
If you’re feeling inadequate when comparing yourself or your business to others, my piece of advice is 'don’t do that!', but if you must, make sure you know the full story as often, what you see on the surface is very different to the reality of the situation. And if you possibly can, use it for motivation!
I was in the gym this morning (I like saying that, don’t get to do it that often these days). I tried out a new piece of equipment, a bit like the elliptical trainer but your feet go side to side not round and round, anyway, it’s kind of weird but good for your thighs! The machine started on a nice middle level number 5. It was hard, really hard, thigh burningly, can’t get your breath hard, after 5 mins I wanted to quit but I didn’t.
The lady next to me had been on her machine before I started and was powering away, she had a great rhythm going and didn’t seem to be struggling much. I thought maybe she’s on a really low level, maybe she just looks like she’s really fit but no, I snuck a little look at her machine, (I'd made sure I knew where to look on the screen so I wouldn’t be seen nosying) and guess what, she was on level 14!!! Wow, did I feel inadequate??
But then I started thinking, I have no idea whether or not this lady is a semi professional athlete. She could be training for some kind of mega endurance challenge, she could have been training all her life and she’s just well, amazingly fit and healthy. The truth is, I didn’t know and I still don’t, I didn’t have enough breath left to strike up a conversation with her, staying upright was challenge enough for me at that point! I don’t know her back-story, I don’t know her journey, her history, meaning I can’t compare her performance on the crazy exercise machine with mine. What it did make me think though was that whilst I can't directly compare myself, my strength and my fitness to hers, I could work towards improving mine, I could see her as aspirational if I chose to do so.
In a similar way with business, you can’t compare your journey and where you are on your journey with other businesses until you know the full story. It might look like a company has achieved and amazing overnight success (there really is no such things, I promise you) but you don’t know from what you're shown on the surface how many years have gone into that ‘overnight’ success!
Whilst on a business builder programme with my home fragrance business several years ago I had the privilege of listening to one such business. Their rise to mainstream brand awareness and their awe inspiring increase in turnover from a few thousand pounds to over half a million in 18 months seemed so incredible it was almost deflating for those who hadn’t managed that yet. Listening to all the elements of business that they have had to become experts in such as manufacturing, importing, exporting, licensing, social media and so many other crucial business areas I felt overwhelmed and very inadequate that I had not managed half of the things they had.
While I was feeling shockingly deflated at my own lack of experience and expertise gained in my two and a half years of running my business full time I heard something crucial to the story. The business owner had actually been in business for over 20 years! They were, in their own words a ‘serial entrepreneur’.
Light bulb moment for me,
I lifted my head, a smile grew as I realised that their current and no doubt ongoing success is actually the culmination of 20 years experience in various business. It’s not just the 18 months in the current business, it’s the result of all the lessons learned along the way. There have no doubt been many other successes and probably a few failures too but it suddenly made me realise that I’m not behind the curve, I’m not lagging behind I am in fact right on track. It’s my track, my journey and to quote the famous Desiderata poem ‘no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should’.
It’s only natural that we compare ourselves to others and in some respects it’s useful to provide us with a level of healthy competition, but you must remember to make sure you know the full story.
If you compare apples with potatoes, the potatoes will always come out looking a bit odd and bumpy!